Savor this moment. Go ahead, breathe it in, I’ll wait. There is nothing that exists in this world that can withstand the march of time, including ourselves. Inevitably, we all will grow up and grow old, but what kind of impression will you leave? What memories will you cherish until the end? More importantly, though, why the rush?
There has never been a point in time where humanity has been more connected than right now. We can call anyone in the world within seconds. We can post a picture to family and friends almost anywhere and it happens immediately. I can type my thoughts on this blog, and its delivered right to your inbox or Facebook feed, just like that. There’s no middle man, just instant connectivity. It’s what you want, when you want it. But why the rush?
We spend the first few years of our children’s lives teaching them how to speak and walk and potty train and learn this and that and everything in between. The next few years are spent learning how to read and helping with homework and learning sports or activities. After that, its talks about relationships and social media and “oh my god did you hear about the latest celebrity whatever blah blah blah”. Then you turn around and ask yourself, “I can’t believe she’s grown up already, where did all the time go?”
We’ve spent so much time running from this activity to that activity and accelerating the maturity cycles of our children, that we rarely get a chance to simply bask in the wonders of child raising. Your child is a dynamic interpretation of yourself. Let that sink in for a second. Once again, I’ll wait, take as much time as you need. They learn most of their quirks from you. If you tend to lead a shallow, self-absorbed and vapid existence, the likelihood that they will repeat those behaviors is strong. If you are constantly on the go and showcasing them as your little accomplishment, then don’t be surprised when they don’t set time aside for you when they’re older. After all, you taught them to be like that.
Countering the Culture
Enough of the negativity already! What can we do to fix this? The answer is simple: clear the non-essential things from your big, important schedule and enjoy being with your children. Instead of chasing the latest and greatest fad, focus on the awesomeness that you already have and enjoy spending time with them. Get silly with them, play board games, ask them about their day, and believe me, you will not regret it.
In my house, every Friday is family fun night. We pick a movie, game or activity that we can all enjoy together. The adults and older children will assist the younger ones so they don’t feel left out, and we all focus on having fun as a family. Most times its complemented with pizza, popcorn and ice cream and just enjoying each other’s company. Sometimes we’ll listen to music together and the kids compete in a dance off, which gets kind of silly but it’s totally worth it.
Communication with your child is the key to a successful relationship, as your bond with your child sets the standard by which all future relationships will be judged. You aren’t supposed to be their friend, nor are you supposed to be the supreme authority figure in their life. Both approaches are examples of extremes that will fail for different, yet parallel reasons. If you approach your child as a friend, you will fail to instill any semblance of consequence in their decision making. This will lead to entitlement and a lack of empathy for others. If you choose the opposite end of the spectrum (overt authority), you can easily harm your child’s confidence and you risk alienating your child and destroying your relationship.
Instead you must determine a metered approach that borrows from both styles. Children need understanding and nurturing as much as they need discipline and respect. Each child will respond a little differently, so you must tailor your style to them on a case-by-case basis. There will be some trial and error, so don’t get discouraged when one tactic doesn’t work well.
The Plan Going Forward
Sometimes we forget that they’re just kids. Many times I get wrapped up in the moment and make snap decisions that I regret, but that’s okay because its human nature. There’s a great bible passage that addresses situations like this (James 1:19): Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. I’m still working on this one, but it’s undeniably great advice.
Even when coaching, I get agitated when someone misses an assignment. Initially there’s frustration and confusion, but then I remember that I’m working with kids, and mistakes will happen and that’s okay. You can’t learn and grow if you’re not given the room to do so. By internalizing the frustration and comprehending the situation, I can more easily redirect my energy into encouragement, and help the player understand what they did and how to fix it. You’ll find much more success by being encouraging and understanding than drawing the proverbial line in the sand.
Life is all about balance, and sometimes you’ll feel like you’re on a tightrope suspended across the Grand Canyon. Kids will test your patience, but just keep hanging in there. If you know the direction you want them to go, stay diligent and true to your plan, and treat your child with dignity and respect, they will follow your example and develop into productive and respectable adults. It’ll be a little bumpy, but be sure to relax a little and enjoy the ride.